Ski and kayak, ExWeb interview: 20-something team combines culture and adventure

Posted: Jun 20, 2013 10:42 pm EDT

(By Correne Coetzer) They chose to build their own kayaks to honor the Inuit tradition of kayak building, stated siblings Eric and Sarah McNair-Landry, and Erik Boomer and Katherine Breen. Their upcoming expedition will be two and a half months skiing and kayaking across home ground; Baffin Island, Qikiqtarjuaq to Cape Dorset.

 

The four adventurers are combining their expedition with the acquisition of traditional skills and sharing that with local, Iqaluit, high school students and teachers. They told ExplorersWeb more about their expedition and preparation.

 

ExplorersWeb: Your gameplan for this expedition?

 

Sarah: Our first, and possible biggest challenge has already begun; to design and build each a traditional sea kayak that we will use on our two month expedition. The month of April consisted of long hours covered from head to toe in saw dust, as we planned, shaped and steam bended our kayaks into form.

 

The expedition itself will start in July. Starting on the east coast of Baffin Island in the community of Qikiqtarjuaq, we will ski up and over the Penny Ice Cap descending into Auy National Park. Here we will use modern boats to descend the Weasel River into the community, Pangnirtung.

 

In Pangnirtung we will pick up our handmade boats, and set off to cross southern Baffin Island. Heading west we will follow traditional hunting routes linking lakes and wild rivers through the interior of Baffin Island. Once we collect a food cache that we dropped off ourselves this winter, we will portage and carry our gear between small lakes and rivers leading us back to the Arctic Ocean. Traveling west along the uninhabited coast to the small hamlet of Cape Dorset, we will end in mid- September.

 

ExplorersWeb: Apart from the physical challenge, a major component of your expedition is the acquisition of traditional skills. What type of skills do you focus on?

 

Sarah: For our upcoming expedition, we decided it would be a great challenge to research and build our own traditional Inuit style sea kayaks. Crafting boats that need to endure a two month long expedition tested our carpentry skills. We spent over a month and many long days in the workshop covered head to toe in saw dust. Luckily, in preparation for the expedition, Eric built two prototype kayaks and the knowledge he gained from building those boats has been essential.

 

We will also build our own paddles and Erik has given himself the challenge to build his own knife for the expedition.

 

ExplorersWeb: Tell us more about the educational component of your trip?

 

Katherine: We wanted to share some of what we’ve learned about kayak building, and so we presented a series of workshops and demonstrations. We worked with local high school students and teachers in the construction of their own scale-model kayaks, which was a big success. Building models is an excellent way to prepare for building the real thing. We hope that students will be inspired to maybe one day build their own boats, but even more importantly we hope they’ll be inspired to paddle them!

 

ExplorersWeb: Kayak shops are full of desirable boats, but you have chosen to build your own. Where do you start? Where do you get your raw materials from? What type of wood do you use? How long did it take?

 

Eric: We chose to build our own kayaks to honor the Inuit tradition of kayak building. It’s added another layer and challenge to the expedition, not to mention it’s a great experience to paddle a boat designed by anthropometric measurements (built to our exact body dimensions).

 

The boats we are building are skin over frame, meaning they have an internal skeleton of cedar and white oak, and an outer coating nylon and sealant (which traditional would have been made of sealskin). Building a traditional kayak can take between 30 and 100 hours. Since we will be using ours on a two month expedition we have been quite meticulous while building.  

 

ExplorersWeb: What does it mean to you personally to acquire these skills?

 

Boomer:  Since I began paddling in 1997, I have watched kayak designs change and evolve, eagerly anticipating each upcoming year's designs. Now for the first time I have had the chance to design and build my own.  From experience on other sea kayaking trips and researching other kayak designs I decided to make my boat spacious and comfortable for myself, and most importantly big enough to accommodate up to 40 days of food and gear.  After over a month of building, I am looking forward to taking the first paddle strokes in my handcrafted kayak.

 

ExplorersWeb: What are your favorite gear/clothes?

 

Sarah: My favorite gear... is our home for the next 70 days: our Hilleberg tents. On rainy, cold days I'm sure we will be praising our NRS paddling jacket and our Klattermusen warm puffy jackets. But most essential is our Camino chocolate. Some might also argue coffee.

 

ExplorersWeb: We know Sarah, Eric and Boomer at ExplorersWeb, tell us a bit about yourself please Katherine. Where did you get your love for adventure? How did you get to know these guys?...

 

Kate: I’m a doctor and my love for adventure has taken me to some very interesting places including big city hospitals in East Africa and some of the smallest, most remote health centers in Northern Canada. I moved to the Canadian Arctic because I love wilderness medicine and practicing in challenging places. I’ve found that working in the Emergency Department is kind of like whitewater kayaking, even when you know what you are doing, you can’t help but feel an adrenaline rush when the pressure is on.

 

As for how I know this crew, I started dating Eric a little over a year ago. He must have thought that I was adequately adventurous because before I knew it we were meeting up with Boomer and Sarah and the planning for this trip was underway!

 

Route summary by Sarah: In mid July we will set out in 24 hour sunlight from the hamlet of Qikiqtarjuaq and travel through Auyuittuq National Park, home of the world's tallest uninterrupted cliff face.  With modern river kayaks, our first challenge will be to cross the Penny Ice Cap to reach the Weasel River. This hazardous class 5 white water river will lead us through amazing vistas into the Arctic Ocean.

 

Once we reach the ocean and the hamlet of Pangnirtung, we will exchange our modern kayaks for our hand-built traditional kayaks. Heading west we will follow traditional hunting routes linking lakes and wild rivers through the interior of Baffin Island. We will portage and carry our gear between small lakes and rivers leading us back to the Arctic Ocean. Traveling west along the uninhabited coast to the small hamlet of Cape Dorset, we will end in mid- September. Shifting sea ice, tides, polar bears, and the harsh Arctic environment will put our team and our handcrafted traditional kayaks to the ultimate test. 

 

Previous/Related:

 

ExWeb interview Sebastian Copeland and Eric McNair-Landry (part 1/2): The battle of body and gear across 2 South Poles

 

ExWeb interview Sebastian Copeland and Eric McNair-Landry (part 2/2): An odd encounter in a paralleled universe

 

ExWeb Interview with Sarah McNair-Landry, "The North Pole is a race against the clock"

 

ExWeb interview with Erik Boomer: walrus attack scarier than polar bear attacks

 

ExWeb interview with Noah Nochasak, “connecting with a past that is so much part of my Inuit culture.”

 

Greenland ski wrap-up: New kite-ski world record

 

Northwest Passage kite ski update: critical final route decisions

 

ExWeb Interview with Eric McNair-Landry, "an expedition in which more decisions had to be made on the trail than during the planning

 

ExWeb interview with Sarah McNair-Landry, it was odd to have to worry about finding water

 

Vada mission accomplished

 

Best of ExplorersWeb 2005 Awards: Matty McNair - Arctic and Antarctica

 

Video: "Cascade" Erik Boomer and others hunting the remote Mexican jungle for the perfect waterfall and the perfect shot.Directed by Anson Fogel & Skip Armstrong

 

For more info and photos on the expedition:

 

2013 Qajaqtuqtut Expedition website

 

2013 Qajaqtuqtut Expedition on Facebook

 

#Polar #ErikBoomer #KatherineBreen #EricMcNair-Landry #SarahMcNairLandry #BaffinIsland #interview

 

Eric McNair-Landry, Katherine Breen, Sarah McNair-Landry and Erik Boomer.
courtesy Erik Boomer, SOURCE
Sarah: "Our first, and possible biggest challenge has already begun; to design and build each a traditional sea kayak that we will use on our two month expedition."
courtesy Erik Boomer, SOURCE
Sarah: "The month of April consisted of long hours covered from head to toe in saw dust, as we planned, shaped and steam bended our kayaks into form."
courtesy Erik Boomer, SOURCE
Eric: "It’s a great experience to paddle a boat designed by anthropometric measurements (built to our exact body dimensions)."
courtesy Erik Boomer, SOURCE
Kate: "We wanted to share some of what we have learned about kayak building, and so we presented a series of workshops and demonstrations."
courtesy Erik Boomer, SOURCE
Boomer: "[Since I began paddling in 1997] now for the first time I have had the chance to design and build my own."
courtesy Erik Boomer, SOURCE
Katherine: "We hope that students will be inspired to maybe one day build their own boats, but even more importantly we hope they will be inspired to paddle them!"
courtesy Erik Boomer, SOURCE
Qajaqtuqtut Expedition route map.
courtesy Pittarak Expeditions, SOURCE